A TRIBUTE TO GANGA MA
Dr. Shiva & The Great Ganga Ma Yatra
Ganga Ma is the greatest river in India. So many great stories have been told about her greatness. One image of Ganga is of her holding a pot with her hands. This is a symbol of the sustaining womb of the life force itself. The rounded pot is a symbol of a woman's breasts and her nourishing powers. The pot is also a symbol of abundance and fertility, which sustains the Universe.
Ganga has an unusual transport called the makara, a creature which is a combination of a crocodile and a tail of a fish. Crocodiles can live on land or sea, and so they show the wisdom of both realms. The fish is a fertility symbol and a symbol of life-giving properties of water. It symbolizes the depths--the intangible and infinite consciousness. This consciousness is the root of all creativity. You often see Ganga Ma on the doorways of mandirs because she is the bridge between heaven and earth. She originated in heaven and came down to earth. Shiva's hair broke the force of her torrential power. This is seen in trees and vegetation as they prevent soil erosion and over flooding of the river. They are like Shiva's hair in this regard. This why we need as many plants and trees near rivers as possible. She is thought to be the "only accessible physical entity that flows in the heavens and on the earth."
I have had some experiences while near water. I went to Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis a few years ago. It was a beautiful summer's day, not a cloud in the sky. There is a beautiful waterfall in the middle of the creek. On this day I saw a vision of a beautiful woman with a white sari coming out of the creek. I experienced her as a goddess to be worshipped and revered. If we all thought of all bodies of water as goddesses, there would not be any industrial pollution. If we thought of them as our mothers, pollution would not exist. True worship is not found in rituals but in the purification of the heart. With this true purification constructive action will be taken to stop industrial pollution of the river.
In the story of Duryodhan, who jumped into the Ganges and expected his sins to be taken away, we see that because his heart was not in the right place he could not be purified by the river. True liberation can only be achieved with the right intent and action. Ganga is our Mother. We would never throw nasty chemicals at our own mothers. If our hearts and spirits are in the right place, we would never put these industrial pollutants in the river. Any ritual we do can not purify us unless we do the internal spiritual work. True spirituality is found in taking right action. If we sit on our rear ends and allow the big polluters to have their way, then we are not truly worshipping the river. True spiritual purity can only be achieved within our own hearts. Ganga Ma is a symbol of this purity.
An example of true worship of Ganga Ma is the life work of Dr. Vandana Shiva. In 2010 she was involved with a Ganga Yatra to help save the greatness of the Ganga. She calls Ganga, "India's ecological, economic, cultural and spiritual life line." She is well known for her ecological activism in the Chipko Movement where she and many others saved India's forests from the loggers. She is the Executive Director of the Navdanya Trust. As I mentioned before trees and plants stop soil erosion and over flooding. After the flood of 1978, it was apparent that the glaciers were melting at a rapid pace near the Ganga River. Dams were effecting the river, especially the huge Tehri Dam. The great farm land perished because of the dam. Professor G.D. Agarwal did penance and fasted to stop the Bhagirahi dams.
She says, "In the plains a big threat to the Ganga and Yamuna is pollution--both from industry and sewage. And even as billions are poured into cleaning the Ganga and the Yamuna through the Ganga Action Plan and Yamuna Action Plan, the pollution of our sacred rivers increases because of a combination of corruption and inappropriate technologies. Industrialisation and urbanism have turned our sacred rivers into sinks for pollutants. The Yamuna is clean before entering Delhi. In 22 km of its journey through Delhi, it picks up 70 percent of the pollution of the river in its total length." She says that organic farming and use of manure on crops would do much to help the river. She helped stop the privatisation of water, where water is treated as a commodity rather free for every one's use. She calls the movement to save Ganga, "a movement to save India's troubled soul that is polluted and stifled by crass consumerism and greed, disconnected from its ecological and cultural foundations. If the Ganga lives, India lives. If the Ganga dies, India dies."
We need individual actions, but we also need better governmental actions, too. Better government comes from people demanding spiritual and green values for the river. A group of environmental leaders can start individual projects. The local level is the place to start. In Minneapolis our neighborhoods started community gardens. Perhaps India could do some projects like that. One small municipality in India got fed up with poor water service. It was one of the poorest area of India, but people pooled their money and developed a superior service on their own. Also electing candidates with green and spiritual values would start to bring a change. One area of India developed a system where 50% of their leaders were women. At first people were not used to women leaders, but after two years they preferred female leaders. They said they solved problems and were more trustworthy and less corrupt. The point of all these examples is to show you that if we get creative we can solve problems and treat Ganga Ma as the great Mother she is to us all.
JAI SHRI VANDANA SHIVA!, JAI SHRI GANGA MA!